REVIEW: ‘Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch’ Modernizes an Old Story and Keeps its Heart

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Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch is a fun film that modernizes the classic cartoon movie while still keeping the traditional story from the book intact. This family-friendly comedy from Illumination Entertainment is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit this season. 

Turning a small story into an animated feature requires adding more depth to the characters. Screenwriters Michael LeSieur and Tommy Swerdlow give the Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Cindy Lou  (Cameron Seely) a meatier storyline without removing the majority of their original characteristics. The Grinch is still the mean Who on Mount Crumpet but with an underlying fear of being alone. He’s less of a villain and more of a grumpy guy who wants to forget a holiday where he was forgotten. The Grinch wants to steal Christmas because Christmas was stolen from him. 

Much like Ron Howard’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Cindy Lou’s character is older and has an independent streak. However, this Cindy Lou has a story that is much more relatable to this generation. She has a scheme of her own to trap Santa Claus so that she can personally tell him her Christmas wish about wanting her mom to be happy.

Donna Who (Rashida Jones), Cindy Lou’s mother, is a single parent who works a night shift before returning home to take care of her kids. It’s a vastly different storyline but it is far more relevant to 2018. The “Nuclear Family” trope is replaced with a family that better represents the general population. It’s a nice contrast that offers more character development for Donna and Cindy’s relationship. I can imagine single parents watching this with their children and feeling seen in Hollywood films. 

The animation really highlights just how eccentric Whoville is. Extravagant Christmas shops line the streets and decorated trees are everywhere. At one point, the giant tree in the middle of Whoville is being flown in over Mount Crumpet. The mayor of Whoville (Angela Lansbury) declares she wants Christmas to be three times bigger this season to up the intensity of the holiday spirit.

It’s a stark contrast to the Grinch’s home. The gadgets used to keep the Grinch’s abode tidy have a Despicable Me type of feel to them. You can see Illumination’s signature style throughout this film. There’s a childlike wonder while you are watching scenes unfold and even the backgrounds of these scenes have a lot to explore. 

Of course, Max – the Grinch’s faithful dog – steals the movie with his puppy eyes and personality. We are also introduced to a new character which is featured in the trailer, Fred the Reindeer. He helps to reveal that the Grinch isn’t all bad. Animals often see the best in people so having Max and Fred develop a relationship with the Grinch was the perfect way of showing that, even though it was small, the Grinch still had a heart. 

The theme of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch has stayed the same through each remake and this newer iteration is no different. But keeping the meaning of the story the same with each retelling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I wasn’t looking for the Grinch to stay bad and not return the Christmas he thought he had stolen. I didn’t realize that I was craving the end of the story where the Grinch’s heart grew three times in size. I wanted so desperately that familiarity of the Grinch at the family table finally opening himself up the Whos around him. 

The Grinch will always be a great holiday classic. This rendition is perfect for today’s political climate and is very much a product of 2018. It’ll get you into the Christmas spirit with an all too familiar yet necessary lesson: it isn’t about the stuff under the tree but rather about celebrating each other. 

The Grinch is in theaters November 9th. Take your kids or watch it without them. I won’t judge. 

Rating: 5/5

Images courtesy of  Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment